Readers comments 7-25-14
Now we have Golden State Water out-of-town streetwalkers prowling Claremont—their latest ploy to confuse the issue of Claremont owning its water.
They are asking for residents to have the right to vote on what Golden State Water claims will be the real price of the purchase, $135 million, which they are asking Claremonters to assume is the starting price. The real price will be whatever a judge says it is and will be based on a realistic appraisal. The city has that realistic appraisal of $54 million. So let’s stop bandying about this bloated figure of $135 million.
Do not be fooled by these CAWA people. They are only a small self-appointed group recruited by Golden State Water to keep the citizens of Claremont from derailing their very lucrative gravy train—a railroad operation funded at our expense.
Just remember one thing: Golden State equals CAWA equals Donna Lowe and her little coterie shilling for GSW.
When these walkers knock on your door, be polite but firm in refusing to sign. They are only struggling folks, the victims of this no-job recovery, trying to support themselves as best they can. They know not what they do. We do.
John C. Forney
Transparency in water issues
A meeting was held Monday evening to, I found, promote the hostile takeover of Claremont’s water system. I went into it thinking that, conceptually, the takeover is a bad idea. Several people who spoke made a good case for local control of our water that moved me to “on-the-fence” status.
What I took away from this meeting that citizens should be aware of:
City control will not soon reduce the cost of our water. The assumption is that costs will increase less going forward than they have under Golden State Water control. Attorneys will be happy as millions of dollars are spent on litigation. Should Claremont gain control, most of the current cost components will remain. Additionally, citizens will, for decades, be required to service a huge amount of debt. Our water bills will, necessarily, increase in the near term.
As the collective owners of our water delivery system, the citizens of Claremont would be taking on the liability for future maintenance and replacement of the infrastructure—a massive underground system of pipes, meters and valves, much of it 100 years old. Certainly, a separate reserve funded by us will be required to pay for ongoing upgrades and inevitable major problems associated with old plumbing.
I assumed that city council members would be at this meeting. I wanted to hear why they are withholding the feasibility report and other details supporting their plan. What don’t they want us to know? This is a concern. Why will we not be allowed to vote on $80 million, possibly $135 million, of indebtedness? If this takeover is such a great idea, why do they think it necessary to spend $176,000 to hire a PR firm to sell it to us?
Support the city’s effort
In a battle that pits David against Goliath, the city of Claremont has taken on Goliath, Golden State Water. The city council, in a very open and democratic way, has put forth a ballot measure to help fund the purchase of what will be our own water.
Golden State is a large company that provides a service to its customers, but, sadly it has become more about making profits. It does this on the backs of the citizens of Claremont. Every two years or so, the company trots out another request for a rate increase. Golden State makes a good profit and offers a good dividend to its investors but cares little, if anything, for the ultimate consequences of the ever-increasing cost of water for its customers. Its primary concern is to make money.
The government of the city of Claremont represents the people and by purchase of the water system, profit will no longer be the primary focus.
Water is a basic necessity of life and outside of food, nothing is more essential for our existence. Water should be clean and affordable to all and with the bond measure scheduled to be on the ballot in November, we can be in greater control of our own destiny.
If you save on water usage in the future, you will no longer be tagged with an immoral surcharge because the company is making less money.
There are a few among us who would have you believe otherwise. They would have you believe that private enterprise is the key and that Golden State Water is good for you. Don’t believe them. Golden State is a monopoly; there is no competition to help keep the price down.
It is ironic that Tea Party individuals are leading the effort to thwart the will of the people. The original Tea Party protested the price of tea. The current members of what is called a Tea Party are being used by the water company to support the ever-increasing price of water and the ever-increasing profits of Golden State Water.
The original Sons and Daughters of liberty fought the Intolerable Acts of the British. Our city council has the courage to fight the intolerable acts of the water company. Let us support the bi-partisan efforts of our fellow citizens to pass the bond issue in November.
Should the Tea Party call the shots?
I have lived and worked in Claremont since 1990 and I just received the fourth—two in the last few days—slick, full-color, oversized mailer from California Affordable Water Advocates (CAWA), founded by Donna Lowe, unsuccessful California Assembly candidate and founder of the Claremont Conservatives Tea Party.
Ms. Lowe has presented CAWA as a “grass roots movement” that apparently began months ago with a business trip to Sacramento by Ms. Lowe, and an incidental meeting with public relations representatives of Golden State Water Company (GSW). In their mailers, they tout their “compromise agreement,” negotiated directly with Golden State Water, deliberately circumventing the elected representatives of the city.
In one of the two June mailers, large yellow letters advertised: “Lower water bills. Local control. NO $135 million water tax.” Wow, that sounds great!
A bold header introduces a 20-point commitment made with GSW but there are no real details other than five bullet points: Lower water bills, local control, commitment to conservation, alternatives to the WRAM and, the real kicker, supporting local schools. Supporting local schools? Really? It goes on to state that “CAWA and GSW will create a STEM curriculum to teach Claremont students the value of water, along with critical science, engineering and mathematics skills.”
Where is this curriculum and why would this be part of the agreement? Did they consult with Claremont Unified School District on this? What credentials do CAWA and GSW present to support their ability to write this curriculum? This resembles something the Tea Party and their billionaire benefactors have supported in Kansas.
The most recent mailer shows the first five points of the 20-point Memorandum of Understanding (MOU), calling attention to “1: Lower water bills for residential customers.” Again, that sounds great, but why has GSW been raising rates and requesting more increases from CPUC at every opportunity? I read the entire MOU provided by the COURIER on their website last month. I recommend all Claremont residents do the same. The ninth point on their flyer, while not highlighted by CAWA, is particularly insightful: “Support for CAWA intervener status. Golden State Water shall support CAWA’s direct involvement in the ratemaking process.”
The ninth point goes on to give CAWA power to provide references for legal counsel, and address changes to service, and to allow CAWA to determine who participates in the rate-making process.
I am not a lawyer but this sounds a lot like CAWA, aka Claremont Conservatives Tea Party, will be calling the shots when it comes to rates, supplied legal counsel by GSW and other financial support from CPUC, and be the designated entity responsible for defending the water rights of the good citizens of Claremont.
The initiative to permit the city to get extra funds to acquire Claremont’s water utility is slated for the November ballot. GSW has a track record of pricing that completely undermines any relationship of trust they may have had with their customers. They complain about costs incurred by the city in this matter, but Claremont residents are smart enough to know that as a for-profit company, Golden State, of course, passes their costs along to their customers, including legal fees and PR expenses.
Who is paying for CAWA and these mailers? Is Donna Lowe paying out of her own pocket or is GSW financing this “grass roots” campaign?
Water is in short supply all over the state and pleas from the governor to voluntarily conserve have met with mixed results, especially in southern California where usage appears to have increased slightly.
Raising the cost of water usage, enhancing incentives for converting to drought-tolerant landscaping and increased fines for waste are all upon us. No matter who owns the utility, it is clear that it will no longer be business as usual and price schedules must be transparent and fairly applied throughout each region.
Water rights affect all citizens and are too important to be left to a rogue group of politically-motivated activists in cahoots with the privately-owned, for-profit company charged with stewardship of the life blood of Claremont and her citizens.
San Dimas, where have you gone?
I want to connect a couple of dots that Ellen Taylor, in her COURIER viewpoint and letter, pointed out.
In 1928, the sleepy little town of Claremont, with only its 2000 residents, decided to have a “small, private” company located in San Dimas provide its water. But, not in the slightest astonishingly, that small neighborhood company has morphed into the “large, privately-held” Golden State Water of today.
A little online research shows that the original Southern California Water grew into California Cities Water, then became Arden-Cordova Water and then expanded into GSW. But GSW itself is now a subsidiary of American States Water, which announces it is the water deliverer for 75 California communities and is listed on the New York Stock Exchange (AWR). My, how that darling little neighborhood company has grown up, up and away.
Secondly, the city of Felton found itself in a parallel situation. Its water was supplied by California American Water—like GSW, a “behemoth company.” But Cal-Am is itself a subsidiary of American Water Works—a water supplier to 14 million people across the country. However, American Water Works, and at the bottom of the heap the city of Felton, have gone Claremont’s ultimate provider one better: they have been snapped up by a foreign company, RWE, a German electric utilities company based in Essen, North Rhine-Westphalia. Through its various subsidiaries.
Given that we live in a market economy in which larger companies acquire smaller ones and, given globalization, how long will it be before GSW, and thus Claremont’s water, is snatched up by some international corporation? San Dimas, where have you gone? Germany is one thing but say China? Who knows?
Ballad of a streetwalker
High and dry at the top of the tree
Low and canvassing for all to see
Solicitation in Claremont is not a crime
Paid streetwalkers on First Amendment time
You’ve been Wramm’d and PUC’d
With (now) three piece suits designed to obstruct
3444 or more
Is all that is asked from the water-borne whore
Compromise, compromise, compromise she whispers
Worship the Golden Water Calf, my brothers and sisters.